From consumer to customer, motoring to membership and business to business – here’s a selection of magazines that we’ve designed over the years.
We relish the demands and discipline of newspaper design and in today’s fast changing media landscape a great looking, well crafted newspaper is more important than ever.
Including cricket match-day programmes, company brochures, complex annual reports and accounts, branding and other marketing material.
Just over a year ago I finished writing a novel called Falling about a 16-year-old boy whose happy and comfortable life slowly crumbles apart around him until it explodes in an outburst of anguish, violence and deep sadness. The boy runs away from home and ends up homeless in London.
Once I’d completed the book, I did little with it, and it sat on my laptop gathering dust. But now I’ve resurrected it and I’m using it to raise money for the homeless charity The Big Issue. If you’d like to find out more, visit this website that I’ve set up – it’s under my pen name of Eddie Allen.
In 1992 I took up a job as art director at Summerhouse Publishing whose clients at the time included Saab, Renault and Little Chef. The company had been based on Charing Cross Road in London but relocated to Norfolk. Helen and myself moved from our flat in Crouch End and bought an old Victorian walled kitchen garden that was once part of Garboldisham manor. The house that we moved into at the walled garden was a clever conversion from the old potting sheds, gardeners’ bothy and vine house – and it straddled either side of the 15 foot high wall that enclosed the one acre kitchen garden. The house was crowned by an ‘observation turret’ that carried the twin flues of the fireplaces.
The garden had a small patch of lawn adjacent to the house but otherwise it was a tangle of weeds and there was little evidence that it had once been a thriving and productive kitchen garden apart from a few broken and rusty wires on some of the walls upon which fruit trees would once have been trained – as fans, cordons and espaliers.
One hundred years ago at the walled garden at Garboldisham Manor
We had a growing interest in gardening and garden design and the walled garden was a perfect blank canvas upon which to make our mark. The plan was, not to restore it to a labour intensive kitchen garden, but into more easier to maintain sections with a veg’ patch here, a formal bit there, a wild bit in the corner and a lawned area for us all to run around on. We could then tackle one section at a time at our own pace in between working and raising a young family.
I was a graphic designer normally used to laying out the pages of a magazine but now I relished the opportunity to suddenly be able to design on a much bigger and grander scale and to make a mark upon our patch of land that was completely enclosed by the beautiful red brick walls. The garden that we planned was loosely inspired by the wonderful National Trust gardens at Hidcote and Sissinghurst which are split up into a series of rooms – each room divided off by formal hedging or a change in level.
The centre of the garden was defined by the old Victorian well, 30 feet deep and with a small puddle of water shining back up at us from its dark depths. Adjacent to the well was a peculiar quarter-circle shaped pond surrounded by a low iron rail, and we surmised that this had been a storage pond to hold the water that would have been pumped from the well, before being used to water the garden. The well and pond would dictate our future garden design. It seemed natural to have a small circular garden within the middle of the walled garden that would follow the lines of the pond with other areas radiating out from this centre.
My father was a land surveyor and one day he came armed with his theodolite and we mapped out the garden. (We’d assumed that it was a perfect square but were surprised to discover that none of the walls were at right angles to the other). Once I had a paper plan in my hands I quickly started sketching out a whole series of elaborate designs that divided the garden into rooms. If you’ve ever visited Hidcote garden in the Cotswolds you’ll know that some of the rooms have long vistas that frame and lead the eye towards the house or to a garden building. We wanted to do the same and so we mapped out avenues and vistas that were aligned with the pond in the centre, the turret on the house, the arched and double gated entrance and with an old water tower that peeked its head just above the wall on the other side. These natural lines or vistas became a fundamental part of the garden design. Some of my early and crazily enthusiastic sketches for the garden are shown below. The garden that we have at the moment is a little simpler but is based on the underlying original structure of a centre circle with avenues radiating out in north-south and east-west directions.
An early design with a secret garden accessible through a hidden mirrored door
Here the main lawn has been twisted to 45°. The house and turret (shown with x) are in the bottom right quarter. An axis/line of sight runs north-south in a line with the turret.
A design with the well and pond enclosed by an octagonal hedge
The secret garden and lodge were abandoned in favour of a large informal pond (see below)
The garden pretty much as it is now. The enclosing wall is 12-16 feet high and runs all around. The entrance to the walled garden is via double doors which are bottom right and marked by a blob of tippex
Hornbeam, yew, beech and laurel hedges were planted along with an avenue of weeping pear trees – all to define the structure. New lawns were sown and a new pond dug. Numerous scented flowering shrubs including Magnolia Grandiflora, Myrtle, Viburnums, Trachelospermum Jasminoides, Pittosporum Tobira and the delicious clove-scented Ribes Odoratum were planted to provide year-round perfume and easy maintenance. Apple, pear, plum, cherry, peach, fig, quince and mulberry trees have all been established with many trained against the walls and making use of the original wire strainers which have survived on many parts of the structure and are testament to the craftsmanship of those canny Victorians.
One unexpected bonus of living in a walled garden is that the high walls and surrounding trees have provided a microclimate that has allowed plants to thrive in the sheltered and warmer conditions and this has supplied us with an abundance of peach, grape, quince and mulberry fruit each year – as well as keeping us nice and cosy. Some days there can be over a five degree difference in temperature from within the garden to outside the walls.
Our work is done. The children have grown up and moved on and their cricket and football room within the walls is now ripe for turning into something new – maybe a tennis court or even back into a vegetable patch. We too, are now moving on. Our friends and family think that we are crazy leaving our little bit of paradise behind – and maybe they are right. On a spring day, when we are sitting outside with the sun on our faces, the birds singing and the sweet perfume of the flowering shrubs drifting in the air, they certainly do have a point.
The Walled Garden and house are for sale with The Modern House. You can view the details here.
A balmy summer’s evening at The Walled Garden
Notebook: 8 December 2018 | NEWSPAPERS
Newspaper Design published by Gestalten: my design book of the year
7am Monday morning on the last day of January in 1972 – I was delivering a sackful of morning newspapers on my paper round. The previous day, British soldiers had shot 28 unarmed civilians who were taking part in a peaceful protest in Derry in Northern Ireland – and 14 people died. The Daily Mirror captured the occasion with a bold headline, Ulster’s Bloody Sunday, together with a shocking photograph that showed a priest performing the last rites to a dying blood-splattered protestor. It was strong journalism and that front page and photo stayed with me for a long time.
As a teenager with a fledgling interest in graphic design, my paper round not only helped me understand the power that an image can bring to storytelling but it also stirred my interest in newspaper design because staring at the mishmash of newspaper front pages as I stuffed them through letterboxes, I began to redesign them in my head. My perfect newspaper would bring order to chaos – it would be modern, modular, easy to navigate and full of simple, sharp typography that would be brought to life with great photography and illustration. I had pictured it looking something like the beautiful 1970s New York newspaper The Herald (pictured above), designed by the legendary American graphic designer Massimo Vignelli (which at that young age I had not seen before but which I stumbled across many years later. More on The Herald here).
The Herald makes a brief appearance in a fantastic book called simply, Newspaper Design which was published by Gestalten back in the summer and which I’ve only just finished looking at. It’s a rich feast of graphic design and visual journalism and a must for anyone with an interest in words and pictures, typography and data visualisation. It gathers together worldwide examples of the best of news design from the last 20 years or so and brings us bang up-to-date with the inclusion of the January 2018 Guardian redesign. The book is a combination of newspaper Case Studies, designer Profiles and industry experts’ Insights that give us glimpses of what the future might hold for both digital and print in news design and publishing.
Case studies include chapters devoted to three of my favourite non UK newspapers: Libération, Journal i and La Repubblica with each publication given over 20 pages which analyse their design in detail with text, captions and a full display of pictures of newspaper layouts. The punchy French left-leaning tabloid Libération has had a strong identity ever since its birth in 1973 with its use of bold but always finely crafted typography and its commitment to using beautiful photography. Pictures are given the same level of importance as text, and across the years they have commissioned master photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson and Sebastiao Salgado.
A spread from the Libération case study
Journal i is an innovative Portuguese daily launched in 2009. It has a wonderful, sharp, snappy design that uses a palette of primary colours and is much more magazine-like in feel and content. Both Libération and Journal i have been designed by the multi award-winning editorial designer Javier Errea and he is featured in one of five designer profiles that include Mario Garcia, Antoni Cases, Lucie Lacava and Mark Porter.
Journal i, the Portuguese daily designed by Javier Errea
The quality Italian newspaper La Repubblica was redesigned last year by Angelo Rinaldi and Francesco Franchi (Franchi is author of Gestalten’s excellent 2013 book, Designing News). It’s architectural structure and superb use of imagery is a stonking visual delight. La Repubblica has ‘changed the basic formula of Italian journalism because it (does) not present itself as a daily newspaper that naturally records the facts, but as a cultural instrument the interprets, orders and classifies them’.
Woahh! A couple of spreads from the book’s profile of La Repubblica
What do these three newspapers all have in common? Their owners and editors have recognised how their papers must reinvent themselves in order to offer a reading experience that is different to what is available online – and they know that they have to appeal to a younger/new audience without alienating their older readers. Of course, design plays a huge part in this process. As Mark Porter says in the book: ‘In a media landscape where there are so many voices all trying to shout louder than the rest, design can make the difference’.
Don’t be misled by the title of the book, Newspaper Design, because it also covers off news design in broader terms and includes articles that look into new ways of ‘telling stories’ be they online or in print. There is an excellent chapter on The New York Times which is rightly described as a ‘factory of innovation … defining multi-media storytelling for the news industry’. Recognising that their online reporting was dominated too much by long strings of text rather than offering a richer visual experience, we learn that the NYT has increased the number of ‘visual experts’ who work there – not just more designers but more visual experts in leadership roles as well – hoorah!
The New York Times has a long history of innovative design and the book reproduces a couple of layouts from the late 1970s by its legendary art director Louis Silverstein who transformed the newspaper’s fortunes with his bold designs and radical thinking. For many years I held on to a copy of a 1979 issue of the paper which I’d dragged back with me from a trip to the USA, until it finally disintegrated. I’d treasured it for its striking typography, large photos and clever illustrations.
The New York Times leading the way in the late 1970s. The design was by Louis Silverstein
The Guardian justifiably has a whole chapter devoted to its design from David Hillman’s radical 1988 redesign, through to Mark Porter’s wonderful 2005 Berliner designs, and then right up to the present day with Alex Breuer’s January 2018 reinvention of the paper in tabloid format. Way back in 1992, The Guardian launched its groundbreaking daily G2 supplement in addition to the main newspaper. G2 offered readers a longer read – feature length stories at a more relaxed reading pace – and this was a formula that was copied by many quality newspapers around the world.
Saturday’s Guardian now includes a variety of supplements including a food magazine Feast, full of enticing pictures and delicious bands of white space, and Review a stylish, stapled book review supplement printed on good quality newsprint. Both Feast and Review are a pleasure to handle and consequently feel quite collectable – which is precisely The Guardian’s intention: offer a more immersive, tactile and magazine-like experience that digital cannot offer. As Eye magazine’s Simon Esterson says in his Insight feature: ‘Design the pages (of a newspaper) in the spirit of a magazine’. Newspaper Design gives us plenty of super examples of newspaper supplements – and a corker that I came across at a second sitting is DN STHLM, the local Stockholm news section that accompanies the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. The supplement is finely crafted and, like the main paper, bristles with dynamic reportage photography.
DN STHLM, the local Stockholm news section that accompanies the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter
The colour magazine has long been part of a newspaper’s weekend armoury, offering the opportunity for longer features, great photography and illustration, and as an additional platform to generate income from advertising. Newspaper Design has some of the best examples on display: the legendary New York Times Magazine; Metropoli and Zen from El Mundo; and Robinson, Francesco Franchi’s explosion of creativity that accompanies La Repubblica each Sunday.
The New York Times Magazine
Metropoli and Zen magazines – supplements that accompany the Spanish newspaper El Mundo
Francesco Franchi’s Robinson magazine
Is there anything missing from the book? A debate on the design, or lack of design, of the popular ‘red-top’ tabloids would have been interesting – there must be some good looking mass-market newspapers worthy of inclusion – Germay’s Bild perhaps – or maybe not?! The Daily Mirror gets a small mention (it was redesigned in 2007 by Antoni Cases who has designed over 100 newspapers across 37 countries). And there are few, if any, examples from the regional press – is newspaper design helping regional newspapers secure their futures (or has all their attention to good visual journalism been abandoned in a round of cost-cutting?) and what lessons can the regionals learn from the likes of The New York Times, The Guardian or Journal i?
Newspaper Design is a must – it’s my favourite design book of the year and it’s not too late to add it to your holiday season wish list. I’ll leave you with a spread from the book that features Javier Errea’s bold redesigns carried out for The Independent in 2011.
Our review of The Guardian redesign. January 2018
Our review of the new-look Sunday Times. April 2017
Jon Hill’s Telegraph apps: Designing for a digital audience. March 2017
Wrestling with a broadsheet: Teaching newspaper design at NUA. February 2017
A look at The New York Times Magazine covers. July 2017
Our look at the best of the Muhammad Ali newspaper tribute supplements. June 2016
A look back at 30 years of The Independent’s design. March 2016
Above: Part of the splendid LCC Graphics Degree Show 2017 exhibition space
Notebook: 24 May 2018 | DEGREE SHOWS
This year’s summer art and design degree shows are less than a month away. If you are a final year graphic design student, it’s your one big moment to show off the culmination of your three year’s hard work studying at university – hopefully you will have a collection of brilliant design work that you are proud of – so make the most of your opportunity to display it to its very best – it might just help you secure your first job.
For many years I was Creative Director at Archant Dialogue, a large content marketing agency based in Norwich. We produced a wide range of different types of magazine for companies that included well known brands such as Saab, Harley-Davidson, CenterParcs, British Showjumping, London Symphony Orchestra, Porsche, Rolls Royce, AGA and Royal Ascot. I had a large team of designers, and over the years, many of them were recruited as graduates directly from the excellent Design for Publishing course at Norwich University of the Arts which we were lucky to have on our doorstep. Each summer I would visit the degree show with my senior designers and we would look out for talented young designers who might want to join our team. We were on the hunt specifically for magazine designers and so we kept a sharp eye out for those students who clearly had a good understanding and flair for typography and picture use. The shows were important to us – they were a quick and easy way for us to recruit new blood. Here are my thoughts on how a student can best present their work and increase their chance of being noticed:
• Try to ensure that your exhibition space is clean, free of clutter, airy and generous, with plenty of room to display your work and room for visitors to circulate freely around it. Don’t try to cram too much in. Plan your space carefully – treat it as a design project in its own right. You may not have much say in the space that you are provided with but you can spend time plotting what you will show and where you will place it.
• Make it easy for visitors to digest the work on display. Friends and family may struggle to understand the work and prospective employers may be pushed for time – so ideally every design needs to have a simple caption that quickly explains the project. A couple of years ago I visited a show where the work was beautifully presented but because it was a course that was pushing at the boundaries of, and questioning, graphic design and visual communication, it was difficult to understand many of the exhibits on show – there were no captions, no printed guide, no website and not even a student around who I could ask to help explain it. I needed a way ‘in’. Remember – graphic design is all about communication. Make sure your audience understand your work – otherwise you’ve lost them at the door.
• Prospective employers need students’ contact details and these are best provided by a show guide or brochure as well as a website (if the course has organised these), rather than business cards which can quickly run out. And make sure that your space is clearly labelled with your name.
• Employers like to see a range of work, rather than just one piece on display, so have additional work available to view on a show website, or better still in a portfolio or book of extra work tucked to one side.
• Ideally the work needs to be a mix of projects that demonstrate more experimental creative thinking alongside designs that show that a student is industry-ready.
• Some shows chose to split up students’ work and this can help the visitor make a comparison between project types (such as the cluster of book jackets pictured above). If this is the case, it is important that tutors/exhibition organisers make sure that it’s easy for the visitor to locate the rest of a student’s work.
• Go easy on presentation fads such as bull-dog clips or particle board. Personally, I prefer to see work mounted, and crisply trimmed out, on good old Featherlite board.
• Remember it’s the one big moment to show off the culmination of three years studying at university so plan it well, make sure the production qualities are 100% and select only your best work.
Notebook: 30 April, 2018 | BRANDING | PHOTOGRAPHY
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism rally and concert in Trafalgar Square and Victoria Park. I was one of the thousands who gathered in the square on that day in 1978 and marched to the park. Here’s my recollections of the period and of that remarkable day from 40 years ago.
Sometime in late 1977 I was drinking in a pub in Coventry with fellow art students. I had one of the distinctive Anti-Nazi League badges pinned to my hairy blue mohair jumper. I was suddenly approached by a burly pub regular who tore the badge from my jumper and tossed it to the floor. We were clearly not welcome in that pub and we swiftly drank our pints and left…
The Anti-Nazi League (ANL) had been founded in 1977 in opposition to far right racist and fascist organisations such as the National Front (NF) which were gaining in popularity especially amongst younger people. The ANL and its sister organisation, Rock against Racism (RAR), had a distinctive visual identity which had been created by David King, the ex-Sunday Times Magazine art editor (1965-1975) and his bold black, red and yellow designs for pin badges, advertisements, posters, placards and banners became a familiar motif to the ANL campaign.
Above: The distinctive ANL and RAR badges designed by David King.
Below: One of King’s bold posters. The ANL branding used the font Franklin Gothic Bold.
In February 1978, the Young National Front held a meeting at Digbeth Town Hall in Birmingham and the ANL organised a counter demonstration in protest. The student’s union at the polytechnic in Coventry put on a bus to take students from Cov’ to Brum, and myself and a couple of friends joined the ride and marched from New Street Station to Digbeth. As we waited for the demo to assemble outside the town hall I remember seeing two young police officers, not much older than ourselves, swigging from a small bottle of whisky – presumably to give themselves some Dutch courage in the face of the gathering protesters. As I recall, the demo ended peacefully, but the atmosphere had been tense and unnerving for all sides, with mounted police cantering along the street.
In March ’78, the ANL’s eye-catching fly-posters, announcing the London march and concert, appeared around the polytechnic campus and in adverts in the music press. There would be a rally in Trafalgar Square followed by a march to Victoria Park with a concert that would feature Birmingham reggae band Steel Pulse, the Tom Robinson Band and others. Late additions to the line-up included punk bands The Clash and X-Ray Spex.
On the day, the student’s union organised free transport from Coventry and our coach joined hoards of others from across the UK which descended upon London. Trafalgar Square was jam-packed and buzzing with 50,000 people and I remember standing on the steps of St-Martin-In-the Field soaking up the joyous, carnival atmosphere and enjoying the spring sunshine that had replaced the rain earlier in the day.
A steady stream of protestors exited the square along The Strand and started to make their way towards Victoria Park for the concert. We imagined that the park was near Victoria station just a mile down the road but we quickly discovered that it was a seven mile walk away in the East End! The marchers were all in good spirits and we made our way down past St Paul’s Cathedral, through the City and out through Spitalfields along Bethnal Green Road. The only tense moment was as we passed a pub in Bethnal Green with Union Jacks draped from the windows and with a handful of snarling NF supporters standing outside.
We arrived at Victoria Park. There was a stage at the west end of the park and the bands had already started playing. The crowd quickly swelled to 80,000 people and it was impossible to get close to the stage – many people had climbed the trees and were perched in the branches to get a better view. The sound system wasn’t great and we didn’t get to see much of The Clash or the other bands, but we weren’t too bothered – we were weary from the march and so we crashed out on the park grass with cans of beer and enjoyed the atmosphere.
RAR photographer Syd Shelton’s famous picture of The Clash’s Paul Simonon on stage at Victoria Park. See links below.
Alongside the northern perimeter of the park there was a huge line of coaches parked up and ready to take carnival goers back to the provinces. We tracked down our bus and eventually arrived back in Coventry late in the evening, tired but happy that we’d helped in a very small way in the fight against the scourge of racism.
Take a look (16.24 mins in) at some excellent recollections of the day from musicians Billy Bragg and Polystyrene, carnival organisers Red Saunders, Syd Shelton and Roger Huddle, and film director Gurinder Chadha, plus lots of footage of the march, background info on RAR, The Clash thumping out White Riot and the fantastic Polystyrene performing Oh Bondage, Up Yours!.
It’s one of three very good YouTube videos by Alan Miles charting the history of RAR.
Short clip of The Clash on stage at Victoria Park performing London’s Burning.
This is good: RAR photographer Syd Shelton talks about his work, and here is The Guardian’s profile of Shelton, Rock Against Racism: the Syd Shelton images that define an era.
Daniel Rachel’s book Walls Come Tumbling Down is a good account of the music and politics of RAR, 2 Tone and Red Wedge.
Yesterday (Sunday 29 April 2018) I celebrated the event of 40 years ago by re-walking the route with my wife Helen. As we made our way along Bethnal Green Road we remembered the story that Helen’s mum had told of how, in 1940 as a young girl, she had marched with many other children and their suitcases along Bethnal Green Road in the opposite direction, to catch trains from Liverpool St Station as evacuees from the Blitz and the Nazi bombs.
Photo: Sarah Wyld
Notebook: 8 April 2018 | MAGAZINES
A profile of Andy Cowles – international, multi-award winning creative development director
On Tuesday, 11 September 2001 I was attending a business conference with colleagues in London’s Docklands. As we were eating our buffet lunch, there was news of a plane crashing into the Twin Towers in New York – and before the lunch was finished there was confirmation that it was some sort of terrorist attack. With the meeting over, we quickly made our way home – a rumour had spread that an attack was also planned for Canary Wharf, which was the tallest building in the UK at the time, and just down the road from where we were. We were glad to be back on the train and heading home for Norfolk…
In New York, Andy Cowles had been on his early morning run. He was living in Manhattan’s West Village and as he jogged down the West Side Highway he overheard a couple of workmen chatting about a low-flying plane – and as his eyes were drawn skywards, he saw the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. It was so high above him that he mistook it for a light aircraft and continued his run around Battery Park and then headed back up the West Highway for home. Glancing over his shoulder he was startled and dumbfounded to see a second plane hit the south tower…
For Andy Cowles 9/11 has understandably become one of the most significant moments in his life and in the days immediately after the attack his overwhelming emotion was one of outrage, how dare this happen! – and in that moment he became a New Yorker and felt a bond with the city, which will never leave him. It was only later that the overwhelming horror of the event set in.
Cowles was an Englishman in New York and at the time of 9/11 he’d been in the city for just a few weeks. He’d landed the job of Creative Director on Condé Nast’s legendary Mademoiselle magazine – which had been on the go since 1935. His brief was to re-imagine the title for a younger and smarter audience.
Mademoiselle Magazine used the quirky sans serif font Chalet by House Industries
Cowles had established himself as one of the UK’s leading magazine creative directors back in the mid 1980s working on the launches and early issues of Q, Empire and Mojo (all published by EMAP and later bought out by Bauer). He had a knack for knowing and understanding his readership – and together with his fellow editors, they were able to create publications that had real emotional engagement with their audiences. Take Q for instance: it was created to give regular music lovers an alternative to the tribal rock press of the day – they were saying to their reader, it doesn’t matter what genre of music you like or don’t like, you are welcome here at Q. We are a broad church – and the audience was respected. Q identified a huge gap in the music press market which they rapidly filled and the magazine became an overnight publishing phenomenon.
Left: Writer Tom Hibberts’ hugely successful Who The Hell..? column
Right: New Q Gothic, drawn by Andy Cowles specifically for the magazine. This typeface replaced Grotesque No.9 sometime around Q80
The best magazines are born when there is great teamwork between editors and designers with all working together for the common good. Teamwork is a fundamental requisite but it doesn’t always happen – and it is not uncommon in publishing for editors to ride roughshod over designers or for designers to be intransigent and unwilling to accept an editor’s point of view. This was never the case at Q. The founding editors Mark Ellen and David Hepworth, who were brilliant journalists from the old rock press, were both highly visual and understood the crucial role that design had to play – and conversely, designer Andy Cowles thought like a journalist and used design, not just as decoration to be painted on, but to help tell the story and hit a touchpoint with the reader. It was a heady mix of talented and creative people sparking together at the right time and their unstoppable energy resulted in, in Cowles words, a magazine that was bitingly funny, beautifully written and with a presentation to match and the brand gave male readers in particular a sense of identity that few contemporary titles have yet to equal.
Andy Cowles’ journalistic approach to design stemmed from way back. With a fellow student at school, they had designed, edited and published an ‘alternative’ school magazine. The headmaster had decried it offensive and ordered all copies to be burnt but the editorial committee held a couple back and entered them into The Sunday Times school magazine competition and it duly became a joint winner, with one of the judges, who just happened to be the headmaster of Eton at the time, describing it as gloriously irreverent! Following this early foray into publishing, Cowles went on to study graphic design at Bristol Polytechnic and upon graduating, and still with a taste for words, pictures and paper, took a job at EMAP in Peterborough on Horse and Pony mag. He progressed from there to become art editor on Melody Maker and then on to EMAP’s Carnaby Street office (home of Smash Hits) to work on the launch of Looks, a hair, fashion and beauty magazine and then onto Q, Empire and Mojo.
The film magazine Empire was, and still is, a hugely popular magazine and at the time of its launch in 1989 there were no other glossy mainstream film magazines quite like it, so it was plugging another well-spotted gap in the marketplace. Music mag Mojo built on Q’s success but was aimed at a slightly older reader interested in a deeper level of authenticity. Looking back at those brilliant early issues of Mojo, it is clear that this is some of Andy Cowles’ finest design work. The layouts draw you in and leave you wanting to read more about the musicians and their music. Pages are bold but always very carefully crafted and Cowles is an expert at combining superb typography with impactful imagery, always edited and cropped in just the right way. When this is all combined with the snappy words of the editor, at the time, Paul Du Noyer, the result is irresistible – no wonder Mojo became the UK’s best selling music monthly.
Cowles continued to work for EMAP for much of the 90s working on a range of launches including Premiere, Total Sport, Fore, and Ride and carrying out redevelopment work for many of the existing titles such as Angling Times, Country Walking and Trail which were all given the same vitality and emotional engagement with the reader that he’d brought to Q and Mojo. He also spent some time with News Corp redesigning the News of the World’s Sunday Magazine and on the launch of an award-winning astrology magazine, Know Your Own Destiny.
In 2001 he made the move to New York to work on Mademoiselle at the Condé Nast office in Times Square. Think of the actor Stanley Tucci’s part as the creative director in The Devil Wears Prada and you begin to get an idea of the world that Cowles had moved into – this was Condé Nast at the height of its success with huge budgets and big teams working across its portfolio of titles… However, the attacks on the World Trade Center heralded a downturn in the publishing sector and in Mademoiselle’s fortunes in particular. The magazine had already been losing money on its ad’ sales in the fiercely competitive women’s magazine market and 9/11 became the nail in its coffin. Despite its 66 year history and a circulation of over one million, plus Andy Cowles’ best efforts to redesign it for a younger, smarter audience, it was closed six months after Cowles had started and he found himself jobless.
In a weird act of serendipity, Cowles heard on the grapevine that Rolling Stone were looking for a new head of design (legendary art director Fred Woodward had just left Rolling Stone magazine, after 14 years tenancy, to take a job as creative director on American GQ at Condé Nast). Cowles contacted Rolling Stone’s owner Jann Wenner, told him that he was the man for the job, and Wenner, who was a fan of Mojo magazine, took the Englishman onboard. It was a case of right place, right time. Cowles’ brief was to head off the challenge to Rolling Stone from new insurgent European titles such as Maxim and Blender and he did this with a more robust design but without compromising the heritage and identity of what was one of the world’s most iconic media brands. A selection of covers, from Cowles’ time at Rolling Stone are shown below, all of them bristling with rich typography and strong, powerful images.
Working for Jann Wenner had its pleasures and its perils – he was a notoriously difficult publisher to operate under, and after a couple of years or so, and feeling homesick for the UK, Cowles felt that it was time to beat a pathway back to London and so he took a job as creative director at IPC on London’s southbank, overseeing all their titles. The role later morphed into ‘editorial development director’ which reflected Cowles’ much broader understanding of the industry and played to the best of his abilities – not just as a designer, but as a copywriter, ideas man, moderniser and publishing and content guru. It was a busy and exciting time with IPC: they had a large programme of new launches including the huge circulation women’s weekly Pick Me Up! (Cowles’ title), compact TV listings mag TV Easy and the Good To Know website (also Cowles’ title)
Cooking Light for IPC’s US parent company Time Inc
Cowles found it easy to switch from one sector to another – one minute working on mass-market titles such as TV Times and the next, on more specialist or upmarket magazines such as the re-mix of huge brands like Country Life, Marie Claire or Horse and Hound to further increase their sales. And he was able to retain his bond with the US by spending some time back in NYC working on Time Inc’s huge Cooking Light, Health and People brands. (Time Inc owned IPC in the UK). One project, amongst many during his time with IPC, that captures his intelligent thinking and wide ranging skills (designer, copywriter, marketeer…), was the ingenious idea he had for promoting the IPC brand. His brief was to remind advertising agencies of the power and reach of the huge IPC/Time Inc portfolio. A roadshow was created and it included a radical pop-up photoshoot and design studio that allowed agency staff to appear on the cover of either NME or Marie Claire. Their finished cover was then sent to the social network of their choice within minutes. It was a clever and witty solution and it ensured that Time Inc. brands remained in the hearts and minds of the agencies. Each cover was written and designed by Cowles in the space of five or so minutes and were shot by the celebrity photographer Neil Cooper pictured at work below. You can read more here.
Andy Cowles’ mantra has always been to respect your audience, put them first and win them over with large dollops of emotional engagement (his so-called secret sauce) and high levels of editorial quality – in other words: understand who your reader is, develop their trust, build bridges by giving them high levels of access to content – and then they’ll come across.
Cowles continues to be one of the UK’s leading creative development directors. Since 2013 he has run his own company Cowles Media creating and reinventing powerful identities for media brands worldwide. Recent projects have included branding work for American Airlines, The Homebuilding and Renovating Show, Horse & Hound and management consultancy Vendigital.
American Way in-flight magazine and app for American Airlines
Graphic designer and author Craig Oldham recently said: “The designer who can speak powerfully and persuasively in front of listeners will outstrip others every time. The gift-of-the gab isn’t about bullshitting, it’s about understanding what you need to say and saying it with passion”¹. Andy Cowles has that gift – he is a powerful communicator and an engaging speaker and teacher, and for many years he has spoken regularly at high profile industry events. He also runs brand and content workshops, for instance for ITV’s Loose Women and he is a Guardian Masterclass trainer. You can catch Andy Cowles speaking on Good design is good business at the PPA Festival at Tobacco Dock in London next month (10 May 2018).
At the end of May, Cowles will return to the streets of Manhattan – this time to take part in The Art of Rolling Stone – a one-day conference devoted to the typography, photography, and design of Rolling Stone. Three generations of art directors from 1967 to 2018, including Andy Cowles, will present their work, tell their stories and share the contributions that they have made to this iconic publication. If you are in New York on Friday 25 May, don’t miss it – you are in for a treat!
In 2009 Cowles was awarded the BSME Mark Boxer award which is presented each year to an individual who, in the opinion of the BSME Committee, has made an outstanding editorial contribution to magazines in this country.
¹From Oh Sh*t, What Now by Craig Oldham and published by Laurence King, April, 2018.
My review of the book here.
Notebook: Friday 13 April 2018 | MAGAZINES | PHOTOGRAPHY
In February this year there was sad news that the The Hyman Archive, the world’s largest collection of magazines, had gone into administration. The collection was started by James Hyman 30 years ago and contains more than 5,000 different publications and 120,000 different issues which are housed in a Woolwich warehouse. It began operating as a business in September 2014 and attracted various paying customers from academia and the media. There had been plans to digitise the whole collection to make it available online but I guess these have now all ground to a halt.
Recently I stumbled across another big magazine collection called Magazine Canteen which is owned and curated by Warren Casey from a large ex-hotel in Cumbria. The collection is smaller than the Hyman Archive but still numbers around 30,000 magazines. Warren began collecting magazines 30 years ago, starting with Smash Hits and he specialises in titles that he is personally interested in such as fashion, music and lifestyle. Unlike the Hyman Collection, the majority of Magazine Canteen’s mags are all for sale although Warren always tries to maintain a full collection of his favourites such as ID, GQ and the Sunday Times magazine. I was particularly interested in the old Sunday Times and Observer mags – Warren has every issue since they were both launched in the early 60s – and a small selection of covers with photos by Don McCullin and Brian Duffy are shown below.
I spent far too long gorging myself on Magazine Canteen’s Instagram site which will give you a real taster of just some of the thousands of magazines held in Warren Casey’s collection – here are a couple of images that caught my eye.
All Good Magazines go to Heaven: A January 2018 feature from the New York Times about the Hyman Archive, written just before they went into administration.
Notebook: 28 March 2018 | BOOK REVIEW
Oh Sh*t, What Now? Honest Advice for New Graphic Designers by Craig Oldham. Published by Laurence King April 2018
What a great book. It’s full of advice for young designers just setting out into the world of graphic design with words of wisdom on topics such as, education, internships, portfolios, landing your first job, personal development, risk-taking and plenty more.
It’s written by Craig Oldham who describes himself variously as a designer, teacher, writer, publisher, campaigner and Yorkshireman. He has an energy and passion for life that comes across in his writing – and if he can inspire a grumpy designer like myself, who is old enough to be his dad, then he’ll certainly inspire younger people. Yes, I like Craig Oldham. He seems like a good bloke and he drinks lots of tea.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see Craig talk or you’ve watched a clip of him on YouTube, you’ll know that he is very engaging and has a natural talent for telling a story and delivering his message – and that he also doesn’t mince his words. He swears a lot, “because, sometimes working in design is shit. This book will offer advice on what to do if things get hard or if you fuck up”. But I don’t mind his strong language – designers often need a release when their macs crash mid-flow or worse still, when a client asks for unfathomable changes to a design. It shows that they care about what they do.
The book is very readable and I’ve listed some of my favourites tips here (with paraphrasing):
Craig on Gap Years. Avoid them. They might broaden your mind, but as a young designer you are in danger of losing the powerful momentum and enthusiasm that you have for design when you graduate. (I have first-hand experience of this. A four month break in the USA after uni’ left me distracted and empty of the passion I’d had for design just a few months earlier.)
Craig on Interviews. It’s all very well having a great looking portfolio but your interviewer will also be making a judgement on how well you might fit into their team so be enthusiastic – interested and interesting. Know your work inside out (and do your homework on your prospective employer). Relax and always be yourself – don’t try to be anyone else.
Craig on Andy. Craig tells a good story about his university friend Andy who was very talented and one of the best students in his year group, but when he left, he just couldn’t get a job in graphics – and when he finally did, a year of unemployment had drained him of his interest in design and he bombed out and became a chef. Andy was just unlucky – wrong place at the wrong time. Craig offers advice on how to approach the problem of being unable to secure that first job offer, by taking a variety of novel approaches.
Craig on ideas. Be open to influence – embrace existing great ideas, learn from them, and transfer the relevant ones into your own work – it’s not where you get the idea from, it’s where you go with it.
Clients. As Craig says, look after them! They pay your bills so treat them well. Some of them may well be a pain in the arse but make sure that you still deliver them great work, on time. (I worked for many years at a contract publishing agency with a lovely colleague called Chris who was the client services director and whenever clients visited he always insisted on getting out the ‘posh’ chocolate biscuits and the best china. All the clients loved Chris!)
Craig on The Brief. As designers our job is to solve problems and the brief will define that problem. So question the brief, interrogate it and make sure you understand it (and the problem that is held therein and that needs solving). Ignore a brief at your peril. As a magazine designer I have often had clients who’ve asked for a redesign without stating why they think their magazine needs redesigning or listing what the problems might be with the old mag so sometimes it is down to the designer to tease out this information and to construct their own brief. Craig also reminds us that if we are struggling for ideas for a design solution then we may be looking in the wrong place and that we should go back and re-read the brief. The idea will always be there right under your nose in the brief just waiting to be prised out.
Craig on Communicating. The designer who can speak powerfully and persuasively in front of listeners will outstrip others every time. The gift-of-the gab isn’t about bullshitting, it’s about understanding what you need to say and saying it with passion.
Craig Oldham’s book contains many other pearls of wisdom – all written in his engaging, funny and honest way. The only advice that seems to be missing from the book is any tips for students on the best way of presenting their work in their degree shows – although often this is out of their control anyway, and in the hands of their tutors. I’ve taken the liberty of including a few of my own tips on this at the end of this post.
The book has a striking design with bold typography and delicious pink and green fluorescent inks and many of the pages are printed on a thick and very tactile ‘beermat’ board (although this does make the book difficult to cradle in your hands and to flick through). There are a couple of production issues with page numbers missing on some of the pages plus some of the fine ‘white-out’ serif type is filling in. But none of this stops it from being a great read and a valuable source of tips and inspiration for design graduates (and even older designers like myself).
Now, if you want to find out how Craig makes a dog drink, you’ll just have to buy a copy of the book…
More here from the publisher Laurence King and here is a good interview with Craig Oldham talking about the book to Form Fifty Five. And here’s a brilliant, very funny and very moving talk by Craig for Nicer Tuesdays about one of his previous books, In Loving Memory of Work about the Miners’ Strike in 1984 (Craig’s father was a miner who was arrested on the picket line). Craig runs a design company called The Office of Craig Oldham.
My tips for students on the best ways to present their work in their final-year degree show.
• Make it easy for visitors to digest the work on display. Friends and family may struggle to understand the work and prospective employers may be pushed for time – so ideally every design needs to have a simple caption that quickly explains the work.
• Prospective employers need students’ contact details and these are best provided by a show guide or brochure as well as a website (if the course has organised these), rather than business cards which can quickly run out.
• Employers like to see a range of work, rather than just one piece on display, so have additional work available to view on a show website, or better still in a portfolio or book of extra work tucked to one side.
• Ideally the work needs to be a mix of projects that demonstrate more experimental creative thinking alongside designs that show that a student is ‘industry ready’.
• Some shows chose to split up students’ work and this can help the visitor make a comparison between project types – but then it’s important that tutors/exhibition organisers make sure that it’s easy for the visitor to locate the rest of a student’s work.
• Go easy on presentation gimmicks such as bull-dog clips, particle board or heaven forbid… rubber plants.
• Remember it’s the one big moment to show off the culmination of three years studying at university so plan it well, make sure the production qualities are 100% and select only your best work.
Picture: Plaster of Paris dogs – the remains of a model explaining how odour TV might have worked. See below…
Notebook: 11 March 2018 | SMELL
I’d just completed a couple of days design teaching in Sheffield and I was travelling home on the train. At Nottingham a flood of passengers poured off but they were quickly replaced by another hoard that clambered on. Out the corner of my eye I saw a rosey faced woman bustle down the aisle and take her seat and as she passed, I smelt her go by. It wasn’t an unpleasant smell – quite the opposite. Outside it was cold and I imagined that the woman had had a long walk to the station because she had picked up the smell of the cool fresh air – that same delicious fragrance that you notice when you gather in freshly laundered washing that has spent a day drying in the fresh air on a washing line. It was a comforting smell and it reminded me of my mother.
When I was a child, mum had worked part time as a nurse at a hospital on the other side of town. Mum never learnt to drive and so she would walk the two miles to the hospital and then two miles back again. Often I would come back from school to an empty house and I would look forward to mum returning from work and when she came through the door I was aware of the smell of the cold air on her clothes mixed in with the leather smells of her bag and gloves. Then we would sit down together and have a chat over a cup of tea (before the days I had turned into a moody and uncommunicative adolescent…). Perfumers have tried to capture that delicious fresh air smell in a bottle with varying degrees of success and if you look you can sniff out their different concoctions.
I’ve always been intrigued by the power of our sense of smell – how we can catch a scent in the air that sometimes unlocks a strong emotion and reminds us of a time or place – and for a brief moment on that train, I had been transported, not to my home in Norfolk, but to a small house in Berkshire where I had grown up and had sat waiting for mum to return from work.
This is the second of two articles about our underused sense of smell. In the first I wrote about my great uncle’s collection of perfume ingredients: An Olfactory Excursion, Part 1: Uncle Ernie. My follow-up piece, Odour Television, is about a three-dimensional display explaining how a smell-emitting television could work and it was created for my final-year major design project as a graphics student at the Royal College of Art.
It was 1982 and I was studying for an MA in Graphic Information (information design) and in the 2nd year I had to undertake a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of my choosing that was related to art and design. Three years earlier I’d written a worthy but pretty dull thesis on map design for my BA, and so second time around, I was determined to research and write about a subject that had a bit more spice – and something that intrigued me but that I knew little about. Digging around for a topic, I remembered my great uncle’s box of perfume ingredients which had sparked my fascination in our sense of smell – the most mysterious and least understood of the five senses. It felt like a rich hunting ground for research. I read as much on the subject that I could lay my hands on – not just on perfumery and our emotional response to smell – but on the physiology of olfaction as well. I quickly discovered that scientists didn’t really understand how smell worked and still to this day they argue over whether different smells are identified in the nose by the physical shape of individual molecules or by vibrations that the molecules emit.
With my research complete, I settled on an angle and wrote up the thesis. It seemed only natural to have some physical smells that the reader could refer to and sniff as they went along, and so I gathered together eight odours that were relevant to the copy, placed them in sealable test-tubes and packaged the whole thing in a box – which is pictured below.
Perfume bottle symbols in the left-hand margin indicated to the reader when to sniff one of the accompanying smells. The thesis was typeset on an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter in Letter Gothic – a typewriter face with a large x-height designed in 1956 and a sister face to the well known Courier designed by Howard Kettler a year earlier.
Now for the smelly telly bit and those dogs…
When I was carrying out my research, I had free and easy access to the library at the Imperial College of Science and Technology which was just down the road from the RCA. Like many libraries, it smelt of musty old books and furniture polish. On a shelf full of old bound copies of Electronics and Power magazine I came across an obscure feature in the January 1968 issue entitled ‘How About Odour Television?’ by an electrical engineer called JP Deignan.
He’d mused on the challenge of inventing odour television and had come up with a crazy, tongue-in-cheek idea. As I wrestled with his description of how it might work I sketched his idea on a scrap of paper to make more sense of it. Now, remember that the MA course that I was undertaking specialised in information design – that is taking complex information and presenting it in such a way that the user can understand it much more easily (think of a well designed timetable or the London Underground map). Reading Deignan’s odour TV feature I knew it would make a great subject for the major design project that had to be undertaken as part of my final-year show. I would explain his thinking and his proposal for odour TV in the form of a diagram – not as a flat diagram on paper – but as an interactive three-dimensional display.
JP Deignan’s idea was based on the theory (at the time) that there were seven ‘primary’ odours that could be mixed together to produce any smell – in the same way that we can mix the three primary colours to make any hue. He proposed that a television could contain those seven primaries which would be heated by certain amounts, mixed together and then released into the room to match the pictures on screen. The big problem he faced, which scientists have still to find an answer to, was: how on earth do you record a smell (in order that you can then transmit it in the case of TV) and then reproduce it? We can record sound and images but we are still unable to capture a scent. Deignan’s off-beat and playful solution was to use Pavlovian trained dogs – with each dog trained to recognise one of the seven primary smells. More on the dogs in a moment…
I produced many sketches for my three-dimensional diagram and then spent two or three weeks camped in the RCA workshops slowly building my model which was finally assembled in situ as part of the final show. The only record I have of the exhibit are some blurry photos which I’ve reproduced below. I hope they help explain JP Deignan’s novel idea – I’ve added in extended picture captions to help.
An overview of the odour television model with (l-r) the TV studio, odour/air mixing boxes, the odour detectors (21 dogs!), amplifier/modulator and radio mast and the television. Above the model are examples of the seven primary smells. The white coiled tube on the left, runs down from a bag (out of sight) that acts as a reservoir of odourless air.
The seven primary smells: musky, camphoraceous, floral, peppermint, ethereal, pungent and putrid. Mix these together in different combinations to reproduce all known smells…
1. The Television Studio. TV chef Fanny Craddock is making a strawberry flan. The smell of strawberries is made up from a mix of the primary odours – 14% musky, 48% floral, 26% ethereal and 12% pungent (0% camphoraceous, 0% peppermint, 0% putrid)
2 The Mixing Boxes. The smell of the strawberry flan passes from the studio through a tube where some of it is diluted with pure odourless air. The reason for this will become clear in a moment. Each primary odour is visually represented by small coloured balls with white balls used to show pure odourless air.
3 The Odour Detectors. In each cage sits a dog. The dogs have been Pavlovian trained to react to the presence of just one of the 7 primary odours. There are 3 rows of 7 dogs and the smell of the strawberry flan reaches each dog. The front row of dogs receive 100% of the strawberry smell, the second row receive 50% strawberry/50% odourless air and the back row receive 25% strawberry/75% odourless air – so the dogs in the middle and back rows are subjected to weaker concentrations of the odour. This means that only the primary odours present in larger quantities (eg the 48% floral) will be detected in the back row. So 21 dogs allows for the possibility of over 16,000 different odours – the more dogs – the higher the ‘definition’ of the odour service. When a dog detects its own primary smell it triggers a microswitch.
4 Transmitting the Signals. The electric signals triggered by the dogs are sent to an amplifier and modulator and are transmitted by radio waves to the television.
5 The Television. The TV contains the 7 primary odours in individual containers in a small compartment. The transmitted radio waves are decoded and the relevant containers are heated by varying amounts to release a particular amount of each odour. Hey presto! – the smell of the strawberry flan is artificially concocted within the television and is ejected into the viewer’s room through a tube the protrudes from the top of the TV.
When the handle on the ‘drawer’ was pulled, the dogs that had detected the smell of strawberry flan would move forward and trigger their imaginary switches, the radio mast would light up and a puff of strawberry essence would be sprayed from the nozzle on the top of the TV.
The degree show came and went. I managed to pick up a brief mention in The Guardian newspaper which I’ve reproduced here.
After the show, the model was disassembled and placed in a large cardboard box. In the intervening years, much of it fell apart and was thrown away and all I have left are the 21 plaster of Paris dogs (pictured top), my sketches, my model of Fanny Craddock, odd lengths of tube and mixing boxes (see 2 above) that connected the various elements and an old fashioned barber shop spray diffuser that contained the strawberry odour that was hidden inside the TV.
When I left the RCA maybe I should have thought about a career in exhibition design (or perfumery!) but instead, I returned to a career in publishing.
Thanks to JP Deignan and his article ‘How About Odour Television?’ from Electronics and Power magazine, January 1968 and reproduced here.
Notebook: 16 March 2018 | TYPOGRAPHY | NEWSPAPERS
Spotted in a corridor at Sheffield Hallam University – the front page of a special colour supplement from The Yorkshire Post celebrating the first moon landing in 1969. My eye was caught by the odd mix of typography. The title or ‘masthead’, Moon Touch Down, is set in a typeface called Microgramma which became a favourite with graphic designers in the late 1960s and early 70s. It’s a geometric CAPS only sans-serif but with distinctive rounded corners, and its square shape allowed for it to be set with very tight letter and line spacing as is the case here – it captures perfectly the optimistic mood of this period in history.
The headline font for First Flag on the Moon, looks rather clumsy in comparison especially with its gappy word spacing. It’s typeset in Futura Bold Condensed (Italic) which has been a popular tabloid newspaper headline font for many years (and is still used today in the ugly looking Sun newspaper).
Microgramma was designed in 1952 by Aldo Novarese and Alessandro Butti. In 1962 Novarese re-worked it, adding in a lower case alphabet and condensed versions, and it was released as a new face called Eurostile which was taken up with equal enthusiasm. The geometric and space-age characteristics of both fonts made them popular for use in science fiction films – first in Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and then in The Andromeda Strain, Alien, Moon and others, and in the TV shows, Star Trek and Gerry Andersen’s Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. (You can read more about this here and here.)
Microgramma/Eurostyle on the language buttons on the space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey
For more examples of Microgramma and Eurostile in use take a look on the excellent Fonts in Use website. (I noticed that Microramma makes an appearance on the cover of a favourite record that I have in my collection – the Clash’s 10-inch EP from 1980, Black Market Clash, designed by Julian Balme and Paul Simonon and reproduced below.)
Microgramma Light in use top left on the Black Market Clash EP. (The picture is of musician and producer Don Letts at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1976. For more on Clash album cover art, follow this link)